Roleplaying with Children

Dungeons and Dragons comes with a hefty amount of bad reputation.  Granted, it has gotten better in more recent times, but years of false accusations of “satanic worship” and other horrifying things is hard for anything to get over, especially a niche hobby like roleplaying.  To be honest, when I started my first ever campaign of Dungeons and Dragons, I was eighteen, and my mother was still none-to-pleased to hear what I was starting.  (I’ll leave the details of her over-reaction out of this, but it’s enough to say that she wasn’t aware of what good things roleplaying can do.)

Now, today I am advocating roleplaying with children.  Your children, your nieces and nephews, your grandchildren, the children at your Friendly Local Game Store… Or perhaps even just allowing your children to form gaming groups of their own.  Because of that, it’s important to state a small disclaimer.  Because some of the “old prejudices” are still running strong in parts of our culture, it needs to be stated that Dungeons and Dragons (and any other form of tabletop roleplaying) has absolutely no connection with Satan.  The game is just that — a game.  There is no real spell-casting involved at all.  Dungeons and Dragons shares a general hobby category with other things such as theatre acting, video games, board games, storytelling, and even comic books.

With that out of the way, let’s move on to the exciting part of this post!  The following are reasons why roleplaying is GREAT for children (and even adults)!

1. Roleplaying Encourages Creativity

Both for the person playing and the person running the game, roleplaying fosters a great place for creativity.  Players are basically making up the story as they go.  It allows children to exercise their active imaginations as well as getting children to think creatively in situations that require fast action.  When you’re facing down a dragon, running up to it and trying to smack it with your broadsword is a pretty obvious tactic, but a creative child might think to make it harder for the dragon to see by stirring up some sand or using the vines along the ground to trip the foe up.  These creative, fast-thinking exercises can translate very well to other areas of life.

2. Roleplaying Teaches Teamwork

Playing in a roleplaying game is almost impossible if you and the other people you’re playing with aren’t working together.  Roleplaying is a cooperative game.  This means that if all the players aren’t working together, toward a common goal, they will most likely not succeed.  The roles in Dungeons and Dragons lend themselves well to this type of play.  The Fighter is offensive, he beats up the bad guys.  But without other players like a Cleric to heal his injuries, a Bard to inspire him to be stronger, and a Ranger to watch his back, he won’t get very far.  As players work through a story, they learn to rely on each other as much as they rely on themselves.

3. Roleplaying Promotes the Creation of a Social Network

Basically, roleplaying helps kids make friends.  You can’t play a roleplaying game by yourself, like you might play a video game by yourself.  Because of that, children make friends.  They make friends with the people they play with, they make friends with other people who play in different games.  There’s an entire community revolving around the roleplaying industry, and the friendships made in the beginning stages of roleplaying can last a lifetime.  I’m a testament to that.  Ben and I met through a Gamers Club, and now, three or so years later, we’re about to be married.

4. Roleplaying Teaches Problem-Solving

In a roleplaying game, a player is bound to come across a host of problems she wasn’t ever prepared to face in her every day life.  What are you supposed to do with a powerful Wizard looks at you from the top of the stairs, waves his magic staff, and prepares to throw a massive Fireball your way?  Roleplaying presents players a host of problems and situations that require deep levels of thought, planning, and careful execution — all aspects of thorough problem solving.  Players will have to think of clever ways to get around traps, defeat monsters, win new allies, and get away with the treasure.  The Game Master (the person running the game) will provide the challenges, but it’s up to the players to find a way to get around them.

5. Roleplaying Encourages Good Ettiquite

Roleplayers learn a lot of important social skills that are great for children, especially young children.  Roleplayers learn to to listen when others are speaking.  Roleplayers learn to take turns (in the challenging situations a Game Master presents, players make their actions in an order known as Initiative).  Roleplayers learn to play nice with others.  It’s hard to defeat the rampaging dragon if you’ve made one of the people meant to fight by your side really angry.

6. Roleplaying Can Expand the Mind

Roleplaying stretches the known boundaries of realty.  It places people in situations they would not normally be in.  Roleplaying can provide interesting exercises for the mind, like memory.  Roleplaying also draws in people from all walks of life, from many cultures.  Roleplaying might put a child in contact with people that child may not have otherwise met, from other economic statuses, from other cultural backgrounds, and even with different personalities, interests, and family situations.

~*~*~*~

As you can see, roleplaying is a great thing for people of all ages, but perhaps especially children.  Roleplaying can provide a good base for a child’s social interactions and problem-solving skills.  Roleplaying also fosters a safe environment for children to explore their creativity and imaginations.

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7 thoughts on “Roleplaying with Children

  1. I completely agree. I really wish I had been introduced to roleplaying games earlier in my life, for I lack creativity and imagination and really wish I had both. Roleplaying DEFINITELY has helped me find those skills in adulthood.

  2. I agree all the way Nat. I’ve been gaming since the 4th grade and its helped in all the ways you mentioned. Also in regards to introducing young people to it my 15 year old brother is part of the weekly game I G.M.

  3. I sadly was a self-taught child in RPGing, and it was a struggle to be able to play with anyone. But it was an interesting post to read because recently I started a watered-down campaign in D&D with my brother, and he’s only 9 years old. At some points I have to help him out and explain some of the aspects of the game, but it’s still a great experience playing with him. He’s open to learning the parts of the game that are sometimes difficult aspects to grasp, but he approaches each challenge with gusto and tells me that

    I am a strong component of this idea, and am glad you were able to explain the positives of it so well.

  4. As a roleplayer who is very much interested in psychology, this blog is a double-whammy. I completely agree.

    Since I was a young child, I’ve been immersed into the gaming world. I simply wish I would have been immersed into Dungeons and Dragons earlier. If I would have started when I was five years old instead of fourteen, I may have been much more creative now!

    However, I must ask what the negative consequences might be? Perhaps children might spend too much time in their roleplaying fantasy world that they become unable to think about anything else at school or extracurricular activities. Unlike adults who have learned to separate fantasy from reality, children often combine the two, living in a fantasy world.

    After weighing the positive and negative consequences, I will soon decide whether to immerse my future children into the Dungeons and Dragons world, and how early they will be allowed to play.

    • As with anything, I think the key is in moderation. Children who watch too much TV will become obese and locked in those fantasy worlds as well. Roleplaying at least encourages healthy mental and social growth. I don’t think playing in roleplaying games would lock children in a fantasy world any more than any sort of “pretend” they play without the structure and rules that RPG systems have to offer. With proper moderation, I don’t know what negatives there could be. Though I agree, it’s worth looking into. :3

      • I do agree that moderation is key, and that the benefits far outweigh the negatives. It is good to be a little cynical from time to time. :)

        (btw, my permalink is broken, so my blog url is http://professormmo.wordpress.com. If you check it out and find it to be at all interesting, I would be happy to do some mutual blog promotion.)

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